The modern-day cannabis industry is marked by a progressive mindset. From the progressive politics that have made legalization a reality across many states, to the intrepid financial institutions that invested in the market well ahead of the curve, the cannabis industry thrives on progress.
Now, forward-thinking outfits can add AI, machine learning, and automation to the list of burgeoning advancements in the field of cannabis manufacturing. Automation techniques are helping cannabis companies deliver better products to market with increased safety and efficiency. Below are three ways that automation, AI, and machine learning are helping to forge a path forward in the cannabis industry.
Analytics, Planning, and Strategy
On the front end, AI can help farms plan their seasonal growing strategy by pulling in a huge amount of complex data and using it to help farmers make more informed choices. The automated interpretation of “big data” can help organizations actively manage a wide range of variables during the growing process. From data on soil quality, to control over irrigation functions, and even monitoring the appropriate amount of CO2 inside your greenhouse, AI can help your organization make better, more informed choices about growing strategy while simultaneously reducing time spent actively monitoring a host of variables.
As the cannabis industry continues to expand rapidly over the next decade, scalability will become key. While your medium-sized operation might satisfy current market demand, there’s no guarantee that your rate of production is future-proof. As more and more of the country embraces legal cannabis products, and federal legislation looms on the horizon, the ability to scale upwards is a key benefit of automation.
Robots and other AI-driven solutions enable growers to produce more products at a higher quality than previously achievable. It begins with AI in the greenhouse itself. Automation enables cannabis farms to:
- Increase their level of production
- Decrease their associated costs
- Potentially increase the quality of their crop yield
Automated robots can already be found inside greenhouses and grow rooms of many well-established cannabis manufacturers. These robots serve to handle rote tasks like:
- Watering and other irrigation functions
- Assistance with fertilization
- Application of pesticides
- Soil prep
- Re-potting crops as necessary
With many of the manual, labor-intensive tasks associated with production is taken care of, companies can help reduce labor costs and increase the amount of product they ship to market without exhausting their human resource.
The increase in automation could not have come at a better time for the cannabis industry. With the ever-present concern of COVID-19 dominating the business landscape this past year, automation has been a godsend.
The safety improvements provided by automation go hand-in-hand with production efficiency. Automation helps companies meet state social distancing benchmarks —oftentimes exceeding them. Automated crop monitoring and harvesting take human interaction out of the equation, drastically reducing the risk of on-the-job COVID-19 infections.
Beyond the COVID-19 implications, automation serves as an all-around employee safeguard. Any cultivation outfit comes with safety concerns, especially those that necessitate harvesting in large-scale quantities. Automated solutions down the road will help keep humans out of harm’s way during the more contentious aspects of cultivation and production.
What’s Next for Cannabis and AI?
As with any technology, the initial phase of its implementation is marked by optimism and potential. The cannabis industry continues to be a multi-industry leader when it comes to the adoption of automation and AI. As the industry itself continues to expand by leaps and bounds, so does its willingness to adopt new technologies aimed at increasing overall operations.
If there is one automation-driven challenge facing the cannabis industry, it’s how to better apply automated solutions during harvest time to ensure the integrity of the harvested product. Given the rapid-fire growth of the industry —and its tech— chances are high that a workable solution is just around the corner.
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